With so many performances of “The Nutcracker” just around the corner, I thought it would be useful for me to show all of you a basic stage eye. I learned this from Michael Avedon, a former makeup artist with the New York City Ballet. This is my blueprint for doing my makeup, no matter what character I am dancing. I will just change the colors around. Today, I will teach you one with neutrals that can work on any skin-tone, under any lighting, and for any role. I will get into more colors and details in future posts!


~ 4 eyeshadows- a white or very light beige, a peach or neutral taupe, a medium brown, and a dark brown. Here’s what I used:

~ Black Liner

~ Brown Liner

~ Mascara

~ False Lashes and Eyelash Glue (Not required but HIGHLY recommended)


(Click on pictures to enlarge if needed.)

   1. Apply the peach or neutral taupe to the lid.

2. Brush the white or very light beige under the brow and just in the inner corner of the eye. Then take the medium brown and place it in the outer corner to give a little depth to the eye.


3. With your black liner, draw a thick line along the lashes that extends slightly upward at the end. The extension is important- a flat line or one that droops can make your eyes appear sad onstage.


4. Take your brown liner and draw a line following the crease of the eye, and connect it to the end of the black one. It does not have to be perfect- you are going to blend it out in a minute.


5. Now, taking the dark brown shadow, go over the brown line you just made, blending it out. This is to ensure the line isn’t harsh.


6. Using the brown liner again, line the lower lashline, finishing right up under the black line. This creates one shape with your eyeliner- not 3 separate lines.

7. Take the dark brown shadow once again and soften the underline, again preventing it from looking harsh.

8. Curl your lashes and apply mascara.

9. You can stop there, but I highly recommend false lashes. They really make your eyes pop onstage, and they hide a multitude of sins makeup-wise. Any uneven lines around your eyes disappear! They take practice but are completely worth it.

You are done!


Here are some things to keep in mind when doing stage makeup:

– DON’T PANIC UNTIL YOU ARE DONE! It’s ok if it looks a bit messy! Honestly- mine is a mess until I apply the false lashes. Keep in mind, you are on the stage. You are not up close and personal!

– Blending is your friend. Never leave your lines harsh. This can make your face and features look strange under stage lighting. This is something Michael taught me. Unless you are portraying a character that needs special distinctive makeup (Firebird, Mother Ginger, etc.), ALWAYS blend your lines.

– Practice! I did NOT get my makeup right the first time or the tenth time. I worked with Michael A LOT before I finally got the hang of it. So don’t be discouraged! You can only get better.

Let me know if this helps you all! Feel free to ask any questions, and I promise to post some more intricate looks soon!



50 thoughts on “The Basic Stage Eye

  1. Thank you so much! You are so inspirational! In two weeks my dance studio is having the premiere of our dance version of The chronicles of Narnia, I’m playing Peter. (There is only one boy in our dance group so 3 girls had to play boys.)

    But do you think I could use this makeup, even as a boy ??

  2. I hope you a wonderful holiday with your dear ones. I loved the way to described the stages of make-up and the pictures you took to reveal the actual look throughout the process. Great! I love reading your tips, although I am not a professional dancer. I love the dance world and here you are opening a door to us, only lovers of dance or amateurs. You are great!

  3. Hi Kathryn! do you think you can give me advice for blush an lip colors? I never know what shade to pick out for lipstick or blush! thank you!

  4. Monica- Maybe I will do a separate post on that! But a safe bet is a pink blush and red lip for stage. Make sure either aren’t too blue or berry based- that can show up purple on the stage.

  5. Thank you very much for this post. I am not very skilled at stage makeup, despite many years of dancing 🙂 One question: I am dancing Waltz of the Flowers this year, with pink and white costumes. Should I add some tones of light pink to the colors shown or will those color work for such a bright costume?

  6. Elizabeth- The colors will work with any costume but you could add a little pink. Instead of using the taupe or peach color and the lid, try a pink. Not too bright- could end up looking weird under the lights. Colors are best used as accents- not the whole eye.

    1. have you tried afterglow cmecstios mineral foundation? Im fijian and its the makeup that i swear by! The color selection is awesome and the coverage is flawless. Its also organic and doesnt get cakey at all. you might like it. bare minerals made my face really oily, and kind of orangey

  7. What brand of eyeshadow did you use for this because I love the colour !! Thanks for this! The pucture of you in the red top (the pcture you used in your blog). I have those on my computer and love the way the style that you use to put on your eyeshadow.Now I know how !! x

  8. Thanks so much for this post, I have a performance on Friday, and I’m definitely using this look! It looks great and really opens my eyes up, unlike that way i used to do my eyes. 😀

  9. This is wonderful ! Could you also do a post on perfect performance-worthy bun-hair ? I can never get my daughter’s slick or smooth enough – what products/ technique do the pros use?

  10. Thanks for the lovely blog and this very informative entry! It is so interesting to see the way stage makeup has changed over the years. Back when I was dancing (think 70s-80s of the last century) the makeup, especially for the eyes, was quite different. Usually, if we were in a large theatre with strong lighting, we made sure the lines did not meet up around the eyes, especially towards the inside, for it made the eyes appear smaller and “squinty”. I suppose better makeup and lighting helps account for the changes in style, as well!

  11. Hi Kathryne! This post was extremely helpful and informative! I was just wondering what I could do make-up-wise as I have quite small eyes and a large space between my eyes and my eyebrows. If I use eyeshadow quite close to the brow it makes my eyelids appear very heavy on stage and my eyes look even smaller than they are! I have tried using white liner on my water line but this makes my face look extremely tacky and unnatural (even though stage makeup isn’t all that natural anyway!). I was just wondering if you had come across this or if you have any helpful suggestions? We are performing Raymonda at my dance studio in a couple of weeks and your advice would be extremely appreciated!

    p.s. I have enjoyed all of your posts – to date – immensely! 🙂

  12. Could you do a tutorial for hair?
    We are performing serenade for our year end show, and need to have our hair in what our former NYCB teacher called a balanchine bun. Not just a high bun, but like an S bun or figure eight style bun. She also used words like a challah and danish to describe its shape.

    Thank You!

  13. I think this tutorial is very helpful to aspiring dancers. I have been trying ample times to make the perfect french twist. I have very long hair which makes this difficult. If you could do a tutorial on a french twist I would greatly appreciate it.

    1. What a great suggestion. I am interested in instructions on the French twist as well. I love it but I could never make it. 🙂

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